Snakes and Pills

169 - jade

The pink slip was rubber-banded around Gavin's timecard when he went to punch in for the start of his shift. The paper wasn't actually pink, of course. It was terse and to the point, offering little explanation. A form letter to be sure, with the appropriate blanks filled in.

Gavin shifted the paper back and forth a few times under the light, trying to determine if his boss had actually signed the paper. The signature was in blue ink, looking like a stamp.

The man signed every check by hand, but when it came to firing someone, he didn't bother to personally take responsibility for it.

He folded the slip back up and put it into the breast pocket of his uniform. So many thoughts made a mess of his mind, but he wasn't terminated yet. Two more weeks of a job to be done.

The campus looked different somehow as Gavin exited the guard shack. He worked a twelve-hour shift manning this gate, which was always quiet this early in the morning. He had grown so accustomed to this spot that it had become a second home to him. This was his kingdom, lost.

A few students trickled through the gate. In an hour, the place would be full of hustle and bustle. Those showing up this early were usually commuters who wanted to avoid rush hour traffic, or who cared a lot about finding a free parking spot.

New faces passed by every year, but Gavin's visage held a constant vigil. Now, his turn was up.

God, he could use a smoke. What a spoiled life he had back in the good old days, where he could grab a quick cigarette break while standing outside his post. Gavin tried to remember when they had outlawed smoking on campus. Long enough ago that he couldn't narrow the date down to anything more specific than a decade or more ago.

None of the little brats walking by even turned their heads to acknowledge him. He knew that the expression on his face was not inviting or friendly. Today, he had a good excuse for such a scowl, but in truth he wore it everyday. His demeanor wasn't really that bad, or so he thought. His face just contorted into that shape most naturally.

The sight of students being friendly to other security guards stung at his heart. He had witnessed it a few times over the years. Usually when he showed up for work early, and the night guy was still on duty. They would turn and wave to him, "Oh, hi, Frank!" in a chipper tone.

Not one ever considered wishing Gavin a good morning. He always resented that. Maybe that was why he was being fired. Maybe someone complained. Maybe nobody could stand him anymore. The thoughts came back again.

He inhaled the fresh morning air deeply. God, he needed a cigarette.

Gavin heard a little electronic chirp in his right ear. His cell phone was back in the shack, but the earpiece kept him tethered. His wife was calling. She always called at this time.

He desperately wanted to just ignore the call, but he couldn't. That's why she bought him the headset. Too many "missed" calls, she said. Her husband was out of the house for the greater part of the day, and she couldn't even keep tabs on him?

What would he even say? He reached up to his ear and tapped the button to accept the call.

"Hi, honey," he grunted in his typical fashion. Someone passing by did a double take, as Gavin appeared to be talking to the air.


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